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Update: Sat 20:50

Currently at lat/long: n42 28.699 e78 23.163

Jamelia's B&B, Karakol, KGZ

A three-fried egg breakfast again (plus wodges of tomato and cucumber) and a 900Som bill. Most expensive yet!

Another gentle day running up the side of the lake. Today fewer Caucasians sunning themselves -- perhaps it was too early, perhaps there wasn't as much beach up here.

Seeing Caucasians makes me think it's a load of Brits abroad (the same mix of lithe to lardy and pasty to bronzed) but I guess it's Russians. Odd seeing blond hair after so long.

The Kyrgyz are oddly more Chinese than most of the Chinese in Xinjiang. Here the men and young boys have large rounded faces with faintly Asian eyes. The women and girls tend to look very SE Asian. Oddly, there aren't many teenagers about. Perhaps they don't loiter in the street round here.

There a lot of 10-15 year old German marque cars on the road which are a distinct step up from the near derelict Ladas creaking about. It's hard to believe so many KGZs can afford them legitimately. Most of them seem to be heavily weighted down in the boot...

On my walk here to this Internet cafe in the university campus (so the LP told me it was) the scenes of urban decay are quite sad. KGZ has struggled (as have all the former USSR states) since the Soviet days and it shows round here.

Interestingly, perhaps as a consequence, while the homestays are coming in around 650Som for B&B (approx. US$15) the mid-range hotels (where they exist) are regularly priced in at closer to $60/70. Much more expensive than India or Pakistan, say. Glancing at the book, it looks similar or more expensive as I move on.

The fork squelched oil out as I rattled over a very stoney road across the hills in search of the Karkara Valley -- not found. What I did find was a very sharp thunderstorm on the way back up the road to Tup. As I quickly put on my waterproof layer there was constant thunder but no lightning. Odd. It then chucked it down, the temperature dropping 7C. Hopefully I have a decent pic of the storm clean-cut against the hills as it toddled up the valley.

Speaking of hills, the Tian Shah broadly marking the KGZ-CHN border are quite magnificent (even if occluded by some hills on the south side at the east end of the lake). Think of a line of mountains marching E-W across the horizon for hundreds of km and for the eastern half they are all snow-capped. Too big for a picture, you can only grab snippets.

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